Journal of Peer Production - New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change
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Title: P2P Search as an Alternative to Google: Recapturing network value through decentralized search
Author/s: Tyler Handley
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Abstract:
This paper examines the intersection between Google's desire to "database the world's knowledge" and the many ways in which Google's approach affects both the nature of the information users find and how they find it. The paper will argue that Google has monopolized the socially constructed nature of the World Wide Web; Benkler's concept of social production will be used as an example of this process.  Google capitalizes on the attention economy, using a combination of PageRank and personalization to dominate the search market.  To do so, it must store and retain vast amounts of user data, this data being a representation of the cultural and social relations of Google users.  By storing user data in "centralized" logs, Google's approach to search opens up questions about how such sensitive data should be stored, and what the ownership of such a social 'map' by a private corporation means. To further establish the meaning of Google's position this paper outlines the potential for new contrasting forms of search, that allocate more control to the user. In particular, this paper will analyze the Peer-to-Peer distributed search engine YaCy to see how it can alleviate the specific problems of various censorship and filtering that affects Google search results, and how it can address the wider issue of the private appropriation of social and cultural networks. This comparison of Google and Peer-to-Peer search will allow a clear view of the issues at stake as search is developed over the next decade, issues which will have resonating consequences on what information we receive.

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Title: Free software and the law. Out of the frying pan and into the fire: how shaking up intellectual property suits competition just fine
Author/s: Angela Daly
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Abstract:
Free software is viewed as a revolutionary and subversive practice, and in particular has dealt a strong blow to the traditional conception of intellectual property law (although in its current form could be considered a 'hack' of IP rights). However, other (capitalist) areas of law have been swift to embrace free software, or at least incorporate it into its own tenets. One area in particular is that of competition (antitrust) law, which itself has long been in theoretical conflict with intellectual property, due to the restriction on competition inherent in the grant of ‘monopoly’ rights by copyrights, patents and trademarks. This contribution will examine how competition law has approached free software by examining instances in which courts have had to deal with such initiatives, for instance in the Oracle Sun Systems merger, and the implications that these decisions have on free software initiatives. The presence or absence of corporate involvement in initiatives will be an important factor in this investigation, with it being posited that true instances of ‘commons-based peer production’ can still subvert the capitalist system, including perplexing its laws beyond intellectual property.

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Title: The Ethic of the Code: An Ethnography of a ‘Humanitarian Hacking’ Community
Author/s: Douglas Haywood
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Abstract:
Hackers and computer hacking have become important narratives in academia and popular media.  These discussions have frequently portrayed hackers as deviant, framing them ethnocentrically within North Atlantic societies.  Recently, however, events such as the politicisation of hacking through ‘hacktivism’ and those who hack for humanitarian causes have forced us to reconsider such typologies, although the body of empirical research in such areas remains relatively sparse. The aim of this paper is to present the findings of an ethnographic study carried out during a hacking event in 2012 which focused upon those involved in ‘Humanitarian Hacking’.  Online and offline research explored the events that hackers took part in, the technologies they produced and the individuals involved.  Based around the ‘Humanitarian Hacking’ event, this paper explores the motivations of participants, contrasting against previous studies and theory, particularly the idea of a ‘hacker ethic’; the extent to which these groups comprise a ‘community’ and its nature; and finally the social shaping of the technological artefacts produced by these groups.  These three themes are explored together as they were often interlinked and provide interesting insights into the nature of this group. Drawing upon the works of previous researchers including Gabriella Coleman, Christopher Kelty and Pekka Himanen, the author will provide ethnographic evidence which demonstrates that not only is the ‘hacker ethic’ an important element within narratives of open-source technology, but that elements of it are also increasingly seen in wider areas of society from open-data to crowd-sourcing to the Anonymous movement.  By tracing the historical origins and context of ‘Humanitarian Hacking’ and exploring their practices, this paper seeks to explore something of the motivations behind this activity.  By doing so, it will reveal the wider symbolic significance of hacking within a ‘network society’ in which informational networks hold a central role, and in which the ability of hackers to manipulate such networks can be both feared and revered. Such groups present a methodological challenge for ethnographers since they are multi-sited, mobile, and take place both online and offline.  This paper therefore draws upon practices in the social sciences including internet ethnography, multi-sited studies, ‘shadowing’ actors and ‘following’ technologies as cultural artefacts.  The hackers engaged with in this project were often themselves academics, with research taking place within the ethnographers ‘own tribe’ and the degree of separation between fieldwork and ‘everyday life’ constantly blurred.  This made a more participatory style of ethnography essential and challenged pre-existing notions of ‘the field’.

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JoPP Signal:
6,5/10
Title: From Free Software to Artisan Science
Author/s: Dan McQuillan
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Abstract:
What critical power remains for Free Software? It has been a powerfully practical critique of Intellectual Property and capitalist incentives, but it is increasingly assimilated by corporations and government as part of a wider strand of open source liberalism. Perhaps the cutting edge of Free Software doesn't lie in the legal liberalism of its licenses. In this paper I will appeal to a prior source of Free Software criticality in the hacker mentality. Giving an autoethnographic account of my experiences in this area, and in particular my involvement in starting the action-research project 'Social Innovation Camp' (Social Innovation Camp 2012), I will describe how this is unfolding in new practices. As a way to understand and further these practices is to draw on the notion of technology affordances proposed by Hutchby (2001 cited in Jordan 2009). This will be combined with critical pedagogy to form a approach I will call Critical Hacktivism. I will also ask what critical power remains in the notion of Peer Production. Looking at the proliferation of material practices that parallel Free Software, in particular in hacker spaces, I will argue for an emerging artisan science that condenses critical hacktivism for communities of makers. The paper will conclude by drawing out the connections between the socially-engaged prototyping of critical hacktivism and the prefigurative politics of social movements like Occupy.

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JoPP Signal:
9/10
Title: Free Software trajectories: from organized publics to formal social enterprises?
Author/s: Morgan Currie, Christopher Kelty, Luis Felipe Rosado Murillo
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Abstract:
One can observe a common trajectory in Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) projects with respect to public participation: they tend to start with a few core developers, then increase in code base size, complexity, number of contributors and users, and, in most cases, create a formal organization to help coordinate the development efforts. The question we discuss in this paper is “what are the characteristics of public participation in those projects that do not describe the common trajectory? In order to respond to this question, we will compare projects with different trajectories: both those which were initially sponsored by a company and then created a community around them, and those that never constituted (or refused to constitute) a formal social enterprise. We highlight fundamental differences and similarities between projects: what makes them grow stronger or fail to attract, foster collaboration, and further forms of public participation. Four cases are explored (Dyne.org, Debian, Android, and Xara Extreme Linux) across five dimensions: 1) project genealogy; 2) tasks; 3) alliances; 4) governance; and, 5) availability. Our goal is to contribute to the studies of public participation, power, coordination, and collaboration by exploring the interplay between organizational forms, Intellectual Property licensing, and genealogy of FOSS projects.

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